Occupy 38: What Was the Occupation of a SoHo Gallery All About?
Is "Occupy Everything!" supposed to be taken literally? Maybe not, as evidenced by what happened at an art gallery in SoHo this weekend.
Occupy Wall Street has spawned one main offshoot so far (Occupy Washington Square Park), and this weekend a new faction broke away: Occupy 38, a small splinter group that occupied an arts nonprofit in SoHo for 28 hours starting on Saturday around 5 p.m. The group was led by artist Georgia Sagri, who, according to her blog, had been involved with Occupy Wall Street-related General Assemblies since before the beginning of the Zuccotti occupation. Occupy 38 wreaked havoc on the quiet Artists Space at 38 Greene Street for...some reason. Their YouTube manifesto:
The group posted on their Tumblr yesterday afternoon:
The newly acquired occupied space in Lower Manhattan, which, unlike Zuccotti Park, provides luxurious bathroom and central heating, has just conducted its first official general assembly. Like all contested spaces that call into question its institutional usages, the space did not come without struggle. Ironically enough, this struggle was not with the police, but with the supposedly politicized character of art world industry in New York.
But according to someone close to the events, the space actually did come without struggle.
At first, Artists Space accommodated the protesters, allowing them free rein of the space.
But Occupy 38 quickly "turned into an anarchic situation," according to our source.
Apparently a group of about five Artists Space staffers stayed overnight, finally leaving around 5 a.m. when it was clear the protesters weren't going anywhere. There was a core group of about 10 main occupiers, while others came and went -- some were recruited from Zuccotti Park. Throughout the night, the occupiers drew graffitti on the walls (as photographed by Bucky Turco at Animal New York) and hung out, reportedly holding a meeting that devolved into a dance party on Saturday night. They held a General Assembly, sans people's mic, at noon yesterday.
Staff members were physically threatened. Artists Space executive director Stefan Kalmár told Gallerist NY that the occupiers had "ventured onto the roof of the building, setting off alarms, and had threatened staff members."
The final straw was when a laptop was stolen from the storage closet last night. Artists Space asked the protesters to leave and called in a private security firm to facilitate the process.
The occupation went out with a final Tumblr post:
We battle with saboteurs, camouflaged socialists, intellectual skepticism; and we say: Let's occupy something else. Now we know who we can invite. The ones that don't wish only for progress to our movement, but the efforts of our bodies to expose and threaten, to break structures and clichés which are not bound only in the arena of a bureaucratic village.
In this process we are educated about tactics of friend and enemy.
This was just a beginning. How can the rest of New York City remain unoccupied? It can't. We will occupy everything.
The biggest question here, of course: why occupy a friendly gallery space? No clear answers there. We're trying to get in touch with the people behind Occupy 38 and will update if we do.
Like a dream (or nightmare), the occupation ended almost as soon as it began. The lesson? Not all "Occupy"--branded events are created equal, and not every space, when occupied, sends the same kind of message. SoHo gallery does not equal privately-owned public park near Wall Street, in terms of symbolic impact.
A better idea for an occupation, as outlined today by David Carr: newsrooms.
Go to Runnin' Scared for more Voice news coverage.
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